Survey Shows Fast, Reliable Screening is Crucial to Bringing Back Live Events

By Anil Chitkara, Evolv Co-founder

The Harris Poll survey shows event-goers are just as concerned about physical safety as COVID protection – and not satisfied with traditional metal detectors.

While these days we all yearn to return to some semblance of normal life, most aren’t going to feel comfortable returning to concerts, sporting events and the like for several months after the pandemic has subsided. The reluctance largely has to do with screening methods that, while necessary and welcome, create lines and crowding that are unacceptable to large swaths of would-be event attendees.

This is one finding from a survey of more than 500 people who attended a concert, sporting event or other live, ticketed event in 2019. Conducted by The Harris Poll in mid-Sept. through early October 2020, the survey made it clear attendees want to see both adequate COVID-related measures in place as well as traditional safety precautions such as metal detectors – but without the lines. It’s a result that should have sports teams, event producers and venue facility managers looking for new ways to make attendees feel comfortable with screening processes while greatly increasing their efficiency and effectiveness.

Social distancing is top of mind

Survey respondents made clear they’re more comfortable returning to events such as conferences, workshops and conventions where social distancing is more easily accomplished and enforced. On average, respondents said they’d be comfortable attending such events within two to three months after federal, state and local restrictions allow (see Figure 1). For events that are generally more crowded, like concerts and sporting events, the median was four to six months.

Figure 1

That finding is consistent with The Harris Poll’s ongoing COVID-19 Tracker surveys, said Erica Parker, Managing Director at The Harris Poll, who recently joined me for a webinar to go over the results.

“It’s clear from that kind of data that it’s a bigger lift to get people to ticketed events,” as compared to dining at a restaurant or returning to the office, she said. “Venue and facility managers are going to need to do some work to restore public confidence and get people back and feeling comfortable doing these activities.”

Part of the issue is, unlike some workers and school-aged children, consumers have the luxury of simply opting not to go to events. They can also be choosier about the protocols in place before they’re willing to return.

Safety concerns run deeper than COVID

What’s more, it’s not just COVID-19 that has folks concerned. While 81% of survey respondents said they are concerned or very concerned about the pandemic, other issues garner the same or even more concern:

  • Mass shootings: 83% concerned or very concerned
  • Street crime – 82%
  • Protest-related civil unrest/violence – 81%
  • Terrorism – 72%

81% of event attendees are concerned about COVID-19 but even more are concerned about mass shootings (83%) and street crime (82%).

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (71%) believe crime has increased over the past year. In the Midwest, the figure is 79% vs. 63% in the South. Residents in rural areas are likewise more likely to think crime is on the rise, 82% vs. 62% for suburbanites.

All this adds up to 69% of respondents believing the risk of violence in public spaces is higher than it was a year ago. Nearly 3 in 10 respondents (28%) say it’s unsafe to go out in public. That’s especially true in the Northeast (35%) but far less so in the Midwest (18%).

69% of respondents think the risk of violence in public spaces is higher than a year ago. Nearly 3 in 10 say it’s unsafe to go out in public.

Against that backdrop, it’s not hard to understand why 79% of survey respondents either agree or strongly agree that screening makes them feel more comfortable at events. This is the case even though they cite numerous problems with traditional screening measures, from lines that slow the process and make social distancing impossible to relying on fallible human intervention (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

On the other hand, respondents clearly appreciate efforts to make screening safer and more efficient post-pandemic. Asked how likely they are to return to a venue that has various features in place, 86% said they were somewhat or strongly likely to visit venues that have hand sanitizer stations and touchless screening in place along with plexiglass shields (85%). Other desirable features include:

  • Walk-through body temperature measurements: 84%
  • Social distancing floor markings: 84%
  • Mandatory face masks: 81%
  • Handheld thermometer checks: 79%

Protecting venues

Traditional metal detector screens, which require attendees to empty their bags and pockets, and potentially be subject to a pat-down, still induce more positive than negative feelings. But the negatives are significant.

Asked how this type of screening would make them feel, 75% said “calm” but nearly a third (32%) said “anxious.” And while 73% said it would make them “confident,” more than one in five (21%) said they’d be “fearful.” Nearly three-quarters (74%) said the screening would make them feel “satisfied” but 30% said they’d be “irritated.” Anxious, fearful and irritated is no way to enjoy an event.

Respondents were also asked what risks they would be willing to accept during a mid-pandemic screening process. The answers point to more challenges for venue operators and managers, as attendees will not tolerate use of outdated technology (61%), slow or inefficient screening processes (58%), false positives, meaning mistaking a harmless item for a weapon (52%), and even the possibility of human error (50%). 

Perhaps most telling, nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) said they would simply not join a line in which people were not socially distancing. Think about that: it means someone has a ticket to an event, gets to the venue, sees a line that violates social distancing guidelines and decides to forego the event.

“When you think about the intersection of COVID and metal detector screening, and the fact that it can create long security lines, [event attendees are] not interested in that,” The Harris Poll’s Parker said. Newer technology can make a difference, though. “We find that 87% are likely to return to facilities and venues if there was a touchless security screening,” she said.

The vast majority of respondents (87%) say they are likely to return to facilities and venues if touchless security screening is in place.

That makes sense because newer touchless security screening systems create an altogether different experience. There’s no need to empty pockets, because the system can detect items that are in your pockets and differentiate, say, a gun from a metal keychain or phone. By the same token, you can carry bags through the screening system; there’s no need to empty them out. The systems are reliable enough that there are far fewer false positives, which means there’s almost no need for pat-downs.

All of these attributes contribute to another big advantage of touchless systems: they’re much faster. Evolv Express, for example, uses artificial intelligence and advanced sensors to screen up to 3,600 people per hour, about 10 times faster than legacy metal detectors.

New workplace requirements

The Harris Poll makes clear that while COVID-19 is a top concern for event attendees, their physical safety is just as important. But given the COVID requirements for social distancing, it’s equally clear that we need to investigate new ways to keep attendees safe and secure.

Consumers will appreciate facilities that implement a touchless approach, given 79% agreed that knowing everyone is screened upon entering a venue makes them more comfortable. And nearly three quarters (74%) agreed that metal detection systems make it impossible to socially distance while in line.

With a system like Evolv Express, you can get ahead of the curve and ensure potential attendees you value their safety, putting them more at ease – and more likely to attend your events. Click here to learn more.

Watch Digital Threshold Live Episode 3 here:

Download our infographic for additional statistics.

A Look Back at How We “Evolved” in 2020

By: Neil Sandhoff, VP North America, Evolv Technology

While last year was filled with an abundance of sadness, uncertainty and civil unrest, it’s important not to overlook accomplishments and successes. As we put our 2021 plan into motion, I’d like to highlight the key awards, news coverage, launches, customer achievements and key lessons from 2020 that have set us up for an outstanding 2021. But first, I’d like to say how grateful we are for our customers and partners; you continue to put your trust and confidence in us to keep your visitors and employees safe.

January…Making Strategic Moves for the Year Ahead

At the beginning of 2020, Evolv made several strategic moves to scale operations and meet the unprecedented demand for free-flow weapons screening by raising $30 million in growth capital from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and others, promoting Peter George to CEO and expanding our research, development and productization efforts led by Co-founder Mike Ellenbogen. 

Finback Investment Partners

Little did we know that those moves would help us keep our doors open through the pandemic and establish our market leadership among security screening companies worldwide, setting us up to assist venues and facilities to safely reopen throughout the year. As 2020 momentum was building, we were recognized as a great place to work, honored as one of Built in Boston’s prestigious Best Small Companies to Work for in 2020.

February…Working Towards our Mission of Making it Safer to Learn

One month into the year, we took huge strides in living our mission of making it safer to learn by partnering with two South Carolina school districts who installed Evolv’s AI-based, free-flow weapons-detection systems. Taking proactive measures to keep students safe was paramount for both school districts, given the increasing frequency of school shootings and related incidents. Dr. Mark Smith, Director of Student Services and Safety at Spartanburg 6, the first school in the nation to use Evolv’s AI-based free-flow weapons detection system stated, “We wanted to incorporate security technology not because we had any incidents, but because we wanted to ensure we never have one. I’d been researching security strategies and next generation technologies searching for a solution that delivered optimal security while providing a welcoming, non-prison-like environment for everyone on campus. I’d been coming up short until I discovered Evolv. They checked all the boxes.” As much as that statement meant to us, the most meaningful moment of the deployment was having a student walk over after the initial installation and say, “thank you, I finally feel safe.” That’s why we do what we do. It was Spartanburg’s ability to see beyond “the norm” that set all of this in motion and established a new baseline of security for schools across the nation.

March… Unprecedented Achievement for Evolv…and the Pandemic Took Hold

Just weeks after launching Evolv Express™ in school districts, and as the pandemic sadly began to spread, we were honored for outstanding campus security services and products, by being recognized by Campus Security & Life Safety with a Platinum Perimeter Protection and a Gold Screening Equipment 2020 Secure Campus Award. One week later, as we settled into our “work from home” routines, we were awarded the world’s most revered innovation award, a Gold 2020 Edison Award in the Threat Defense and Security Category.  Winning an award of this caliber against elite competition worldwide was a true honor for everyone at Evolv.

April…Regrouping and Re-Engineering to Address the Pandemic Health Threat

In April, as all non-essential businesses shut down, or started to find a “work from home” rhythm, we saw a massive increase in factory worker hiring and an increase in uncertainty, civil unrest and the start of ongoing violence. We also saw a shift in security threats.  No longer were CSOs and COOs worrying solely about weapons as threats, now they had to worry about health threats as well.  Our executive team was refining our strategy, while engineering and product management started reshaping our roadmap. Security screening as we knew it was probably changing forever, and our solution was more important now than ever before.

While it would have been so easy to become stuck in what we coined, “the COVID fog”, our employees rallied together, hunkered down and worked even longer hours to serve our customer mission globally and sustain manufacturing.

First on the list for our updated product roadmap was to evaluate and build an add-on thermal imaging package to help venues and facilities spot individuals with elevated skin temperature who might be possible health threats. While our support team managed calls assisting venues with reallocating systems to different locations, our marketing team developed a customer spotlight program to drive awareness and business to customers online, and our Customer Success Team established a Best Practice program for customers, setting up customer meetings to field questions, help share trends and lessons learned across industries as everyone worked together to keep our various communities safe. And while the teams were hard at work, working remote and assisting customers meet the new security demands, we were honored by the Tech Tribune as a 2020 Best Tech Startup in Waltham

May…Time for Adaptive Recovery

Throughout the uncertainty of the pandemic, we continued to be surprised and honored, and in May we earned a spot on Inc. Magazine’s 2020 Best Workplaces List, where they recognize successful businesses that value company culture, offer standout worker benefits and prioritize employee well-being. This award helped shine a light on why we all love working for Evolv…it’s a family and we all are driving towards the mission of keeping people safe. Our customer partnerships are an extension of that family, and we knew we had to do everything possible to help venues and facilities adapt and recover. We were lucky enough to be able to call on one of our Advisors, Juliette Kayyem, to host an hour-long webinar discussing the adaptive recovery process for schools, workplaces and ticketed venues.  She was able to offer hundreds of venues and facilities strategic guidance into how to adapt and recover during this unprecedented time.

June…Reopening America with Touchless Security Screening

Since the launch of Evolv Express, interest in the free-flow, respectful, fast screening had been strong.  What we hadn’t focused on until the pandemic was its “touchless” capability. Because Express offers free-flow screening, and drastically reduces the need for secondary screening, we realized that Express was the only screening solution out there that enables social-distancing at entrances while still screening people as they walked in the door.  And, in June, we were grateful to help reopen some North American sites with touchless security screening starting at Six Flags locations nationwide, Set Jet and several others.  Together we were reimagining security in the recreation space.

What once was a “nice-to-have”, was now an imperative. People refuse to be touched. People cannot and will not stand in lines. And, Express was and is the one solution that enables safe screening at a distance. It was an ‘Aha!’ moment for all of us…

July…Taking the Temperature on Thermal Imaging as Touchless Screening Demand Surges

As customers such as Georgia Aquarium, Six Flags Theme Parks and others reopened throughout the summer with Express systems in place, we saw a demand surge for touchless security screening. We also were hearing of many other new security tactics and operations solutions enabling touchless guest experiences that were being adopted by our customers. We called upon Anthony Rivera from Georgia Aquarium and Todd Fasulo of Wynn Resorts, to host the webinar “It’s Time to go Touchless”. Their years of experience in both security and hospitality left us with a number of important takeaways, including: 1) Adopt a culture of relentless innovation; all things can be improved upon; 2) Think “five-star experience” as you approach every step of your guest, visitor or employee journey; and 3) Engage your full leadership team, ensuring public safety AND public health are organization-wide strategic imperatives.

In keeping with the notion of “going touchless”, Evolv was thrilled to launch our thermal imaging package for Express. Venues and facilities could now screen for both weapons and elevated skin temperature in an integrated, touchless fashion ensuring safe screening for all involved.

August…A Global Partnership is Announced and Cultural Institutions Begin to Reopen

In August, we announced a global partnership with STANLEY Security, the world’s second-largest electronic security company. As a result, organizations receive unparalleled expertise and the full spectrum of value-added services from the two combined companies. Shortly after our partnership was announced, we were honored by Campus Safety Magazine with the Campus Safety Best Electronic Systems Technologies (BEST) award for the “Inspection & Detection Equipment” category. As CEO Peter George stated, “As classrooms begin to reopen, public officials, administrators and security professionals alike share a commitment to do so safely. Keeping people safe is Evolv’s core mission and we’re honored to be recognized by Campus Safety magazine’s 2020 BEST awards for the tremendous value Evolv Express brings to campuses nationwide.”

Just as schools were beginning to reopen and find a “new normal”, so too were museums and cultural institutions, such as those in New York City. Our customer success team spent the month working with customers like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History and several others to ensure a smooth and safe reopening.

September…A Golden Ticket to Safety and the Rise of the Digital Threshold

In September our teams were now in full swing working with customers nationwide as they slowly and carefully reopened, several of which were proudly showcasing new attractions, exhibits and entrances. One such customer was Hersheypark, who used the shutdown time to finish rebuilding a brand new entrance for a better customer experience including the incorporation of touchless screening to eliminate the need for person-by-person manual bag checks. With metal detectors, it typically took the park four to five seconds per person for screening, regularly followed by hand searching of bags or other personal items, so not only was this a welcomed change by park guests, but the park’s security professionals emphasized how easy it was to learn and use the system while optimizing their staff resources.

As mentioned earlier, Six Flags also updated their entrances, in fact, they won an Amusement Today Golden Ticket Innovation of the Year Award for their entrance improvements which included incorporating Evolv Express for park guest screening.

By mid-September, we had spent months talking to customers, analyzing market trends and watching nationwide violence and civil unrest hit new highs. We used that newly found knowledge coupled with expertise in both the physical and digital security spaces to build a new vision, one where the physical and digital security realms merge, and our CEO published “The Rise of the Digital Threshold” piece illustrating our thoughts on security of the future.

Rise of the Digital Threshold

Tied to that new vision, we launched a webcast series called Digital Threshold Live where Co-founder Anil Chitkara talks with security, operations and guest experience professionals about emerging trends, lessons learned and so much more.

October…The Current Threat Environment and Reopening Safely

Kicking off the month of October, we held our first episode of Digital Threshold Live. In the first episode, Anil talked about safely reopening New York’s premiere arts venues with Keith Prewitt, Chief Security Officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lisa Schroeder, Director of Finance, Performance and Campus Operations for the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Thomas Slade, Senior Security Director for the American Museum of Natural History.  

Our second episode was held three weeks later where Anil sat one-on-one with Managing Director of Corporate Safety and Security for Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, Jason White, to discuss trust and confidence being the foundation of delivering an exceptional visitor experience. In each of these episodes, Anil and the guest speakers covered a variety of topics related to public safety, public health, the customer journey and the path back to normal.

Mid-way through the month, we proudly sponsored Counter Terror Business’ CTB365 event where our European Sales Director, Nathan Bailey, gave a virtual keynote presentation around “the current threat environment and the need for layered security strategy”, and then Co-founder Anil Chitkara joined esteemed security professionals and advocates in the final Panel Discussion & Round-up featuring: Philip Ingram, Figen Murray, Rick Mounfield, Paul Jeffrey, Gary Simpson and Nick Aldworth.

While a majority of outdoor ticketed venues were finding ways to reopen throughout the summer and fall, many of our beloved performing arts venues, stadiums and indoor arenas were unfortunately dealing with a different situation. Many sports venues allowed the games to take place, but they were without fans and most of their employees, such as Manchester Arena. For some performing arts venues, opening up was highly dependent on location. For instance, Omaha Performing Arts Venue was able to reopen in October after installing Evolv Express as their new security scanners to eliminate close contact between employees and attendees and changing to cashless transactions.

Others, such as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, created an online community for arts lovers to enjoy music and live performances virtually in what they call “Lincoln Center at Home”. Others took innovation and “thinking outside the box” to a new level. Dr. Phillips Center decided if people can’t be inside to see the performances, they’d bring the performances outside to the people. And, in October they announced their new series “Frontyard Festival”, an all-new outdoor, six-month long festival for downtown Orlando that started in December. Front Yard Festival features live entertainment in a safe, socially-distanced environment, using Evolv Express as part of their security operation.

November…Time for Research

While we are in constant communication with venues and facilities throughout the world who provide a wealth of anecdotal information, we were thirsty for formal data.  To help venues and facilities with their planning assumptions for 2021, we decided it was time for market research. With Harris Insights we embarked on a survey. This Harris Poll was conducted online with more than 1,500 American adults who have a personal stake in the security screening experience: consumers who attended ticketed events in 2019 (n=506), parents of school-aged children (n=712), and workers at large factories, warehouses and distribution centers (n=504). Anil and Erica Parker, managing director at The Harris Poll, reviewed these research results and discussed the implications for workplaces, schools, ticketed venues and other facilities in mid-November in Episode 3 of Evolv’s Digital Threshold Live webcast series.

December…Putting a Bow on 2020

In the beginning of the month, Mahesh Saptharishi, CTO at Motorola Solutions, joined Anil in Episode 4 of Digital Threshold Live: “Why Technology Convergence in the Digital Threshold Matters” to talk about the technological possibilities at the intersection of sensors and AI, exploring the business drivers, the technology and ultimately the effect on humans. He told us that “Machine learning are the core algorithmic capabilities that power AI,” and with regards to physical security, “when cameras, or when systems, see things, detect objects or respond to what the objects are doing in the scene, that is artificial intelligence, but that ability to detect and the ability for that system to adapt to the environment is powered by machine learning algorithms.”

In December we received three honors. Frost & Sullivan recognized Evolv with the 2020 North American Technology Innovation Leadership Award for Evolv Express™ publishing a full industry report. BostInno named us one of Boston’s hottest startups with an Inno on Fire 2020 Blazer Award; and we were awarded a 2020 Platinum ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Award from American Security Today.

To tie a bow around what we learned from 2020 and put it to work in 2021, Anil welcomed Courtney Adante, President and Security Risk Advisor, and Jonathan Wackrow, Managing Director and Global Head of Security from Teneo, a global CEO consulting and advisory firm to join him for Digital Threshold Live Episode 5 – Resilience Is A Competitive Necessity: Learnings From 2020 And Considerations For 2021. Resilience is central, it’s an organization’s ability to respond, recover and rebound, and the challenges of 2020 have made it abundantly clear that resilience planning is critical.

Looking Ahead to 2021

Throughout the year, several themes emerged among our customers and their industries: 1) touchless solutions are the key to building confidence and customer reengagement; 2) sharing lessons learned across institutions and venues within one’s industry is a true treasure; 3) a layered security strategy is the only way to adapt and recover from any tragic event; and 4) the security landscape and the CSO’s role has changed forever.

As we move into the second week of 2021, I hope you and your organization are able to use what we’ve learned to build a more robust security infrastructure and customer experience for 2021.  We look forward to our continued partnerships and for those who haven’t yet reached out to have a conversation, I’m only an email or phone call away. And, don’t forget to check back periodically for the latest Digital Threshold Live event.

Cheers, here’s to a successful and safe 2021, and thank you for entrusting us with your safety.

Harris Poll Shows Physical Security is Crucial to Getting Kids Back in School

By: Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-founder

Parents are equally concerned about mass shootings and COVID; the majority want weapons screening in place.

While effectively dealing with COVID-19 is top-of-mind for facilities managers as they work toward getting students back to school full-time, a recent Harris Poll we commissioned indicates there’s significant concern over violence and crime to be overcome as well. And in the COVID era, traditional screening methods that create lines and crowding will no longer be acceptable as a mitigation measure.

For the poll, more than 700 parents of K-12 school-aged children were surveyed in Sept. and Oct. 2020. It found 87% of the parents were either very or somewhat concerned about their kids contacting COVID upon returning to school. But concern over their physical security was a close second, at 81%. Although parents in urban areas were more likely to be somewhat or very concerned than their suburban counterparts, over half of suburban parents are concerned about the physical security of their children, 74% vs. 54%, respectively.

Eight out of ten parents are concerned about the physical security of their school age children.

COVID measures yes, but physical security, too

It’s a similar story when looking at COVID-19 prevention protocols and measures to ensure physical safety.

Having schools follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols is important to parents feeling safe about their kids. More than 90% of parents say it’s important for schools to ensure frequent handwashing and sanitizing, increased cleaning, mask wearing, social distancing and temperature screening (see Figure 1). 

Figure 1

While that is certainly understandable, what may be surprising is that parents are nearly as concerned over physical security measures intended to keep students safe. More than 9 in 10 parents said it was somewhat or very important that each of the following measures be in place:

  • Locked doors and visitors showing ID: 92%
  • Presence of law enforcement: 92%
  • All classrooms have door locks: 91%
  • Metal detector for screening: 91%

Over 90% of parents say it is important to have a metal detector to screen for weapons coming into schools.

Part of the reason for concern over physical security measures is a fear of violence in public spaces. Sadly, school safety has been an issue for decades now. But concern seems to be growing, as the poll found 68% of parents think the risk is higher now than a year ago. Perhaps even more concerning, more than a third (31%) say going out in public is “mostly” or “very” unsafe.

Almost 90% of parents are concerned about a mass shooting in schools, matching the same level of concern about COVID.

In fact, parents are just as concerned over the risk of various sorts of physical violence as they are of COVID. Indeed, 88% of parents are somewhat or very concerned about COVID, the exact same number as for mass shootings. The numbers are similar for other forms of threats:

  • Protest-related civil unrest/violence: 86%
  • Street crime: 83%
  • Terrorism: 76%

COVID-related issues with metal detectors

So, it’s clear schools will have to take steps to assuage parents’ concerns over various physical threats. But the poll makes clear the pandemic is making that more challenging.

Parents now see issues with traditional metal detector screening. More than three quarters of parents are concerned that screening can create long lines and requires a student’s belongings to be touched by a security guard (see Figure 2). Fewer but still significant numbers of parents cite issues such as the possibility for human error, creating crowds that violate social distancing guidelines, and the need for physical pat-downs and searches.

Figure 2

The poll makes clear any schools using traditional metal detector screening are in for some backlash from parents. In the COVID era, at least half of parents are not willing to accept many of the problems associated with traditional metal detectors, including:

  • Crowds that violate social distancing guidelines
  • Use of outdated technology
  • False positives
  • Slow or inefficient processes
  • Physical pat down searches

Three out of four parents are concerned that security screening creates lines, and two thirds of them would not join a line that lacked social distancing.

Here’s another stat from the poll that I found fairly astounding: When parents were asked what they would do if they saw a security line in which people were not socially distancing, nearly two-thirds (65%) said they would not join the line. This inclination was far more pronounced in urban (73%) and suburban (64%) areas than rural (43%). 

A touchless screening experience

I discussed this issue, along with many others, in a webinar with Erica Parker, Managing Director at The Harris Poll. “When you think about the intersection of COVID and metal detector screening, and the fact that it can create long security lines, [parents are] not interested in that,” she said. Newer technology can make a difference, though. “We find that 87% are likely to return to facilities and venues if there was a touchless security screening,” she said.

The vast majority of parents (87%) say they are likely to return to facilities and venues if touchless security screening is in place.

That makes sense because newer touchless security screening systems create an altogether different experience. There’s no need to empty pockets, because the system can detect items that are in your pockets and differentiate, say, a gun from a metal keychain or phone. By the same token, you can carry bags through the screener; there’s no need to empty them out. The systems are reliable enough that there are far fewer false positives – meaning mistaking a harmless item for a weapon – which means there’s no need for pat-downs.

All of these attributes contribute to another big advantage of touchless systems: they’re much faster. Evolv Express, for example, uses artificial intelligence and powerful sensors to screen up to 3,600 people per hour, about 10 times faster than legacy metal detectors.

New back to school requirements

The Harris Poll makes clear that while COVID-19 is a top concern for parents of K-12 students, their physical safety is a close second. But given the COVID requirements for social distancing, it’s equally clear that we need to investigate new ways to keep kids safe and secure.

Parents will appreciate schools that implement a touchless approach, as 85% of them agree that knowing everyone is screened upon entering a school building makes them more comfortable. And more than three quarters (78%) agreed that metal detection systems make it impossible to socially distance while in line.

With a system like Evolv Express, you can get ahead of the curve and safely welcome kids back to school. To learn more, visit Evolv.

Read our Press Release

Digital Threshold News: Introduction & Episode 1 Recap

Welcome to Digital Threshold News. In this newsletter, we’ll keep you up-to-date on all the latest insights and thought leadership from our Digital Threshold Live webcast series and podcasts.

These webcasts and podcasts give us the opportunity to bring you the latest industry trends and lessons learned from professionals and practitioners who are at the intersection of venues and technology to keep you ahead of the curve. The goal is to give you specific, targeted actions you can bring back to your organization and inspire you to think about how the future of the industry is taking shape.

In the first episode of Digital Threshold Live, “Safely Reopening New York’s Art Venues in a Pandemic,” host Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-Founder and Head of Corporate Development, was joined by three impressive industry guests:

  • Keith Prewitt, Chief Security Officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Lisa Schroeder, Director of Finance, Performance and Campus Operations for the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
  • Thomas Slade, Senior Security Director for the American Museum of Natural History

Alongside many of New York City’s cultural institutions, these leaders formed a coalition of sorts to bring together the city’s brightest minds in the face of the daunting task of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and, now, reopening efforts aimed at creating a safer environment in a city accustomed to approximately 60 million tourists annually.

Episode 1 Highlights

Chitkara and the trio of industry leaders discussed a variety of topics relating to public safety, public health, the customer journey and the path back to normal, including:

  • Safely reopening in the wake of the pandemic, including technologies and strategies helping make that possible
  • The impact of, and desire for, touchless customer experiences
  • The importance of risk mitigation and continuity plans that empower you to be agile and adaptable in an ever-changing environment
  • How art venues, in particular, are giving visitors and staff alike peace of mind
  • How the visitor journey is being impacted by social distancing, patron screening, and more
  • Emerging and re-emerging technologies, such as temperature screening

Venue security and venue reopening are complex topics, but leaders like Prewitt, Schroeder and Slade are developing a roadmap toward a new normal and beyond.

You can view the OnDemand version of the webcast by clicking on the video below.

 

To view other OnDemand episodes of Digital Threshold Live, click here.

Too busy to sit in front of your laptop and watch these webcasts? We offer these as a podcast. The Digital Threshold Podcast series is available on Apple, Google or Spotify.

Beyond Bodyguards: Awards Season’s Security Challenges

Paparazzi

With Sunday’s 91st Academy Awards now in the rearview mirror, water cooler talk around the countryturns to awards season takeaways. The majority of these conversations may focus on big winners, surprise snubs, and jaw-dropping fashion, but at Evolv, physical security is the main topic of discussion.

Hollywood’s awards season, held annually between October and February, culminates in a series of televised award shows. Each year, millions of people across the globe settle in to watch the year’s leadingactors, writers, musicians, and artists gather to be recognized for outstanding contributions to their industries. Venues hosting the biggest industry shows may change year-to-year but regardless of location, awards season has always been a time for Hollywood to put its most glamorous side on display — from onstage presenters and performers, to celebrity-packed audiences, red carpets, and after parties.

The polished and glamorous Hollywood environment displayed during these award shows may appear perfect, but that’s hardly reality. Any large event held at a public venue generates potential security threats. Despite the glitz and glamour, events like the Emmys or Oscars have similar physical security concerns to those of concert halls, sports stadiums, and airports around the globe.

Threats don’t discriminate

While celebrities and those in the entertainment industry can sometimes seem “untouchable,” they are not immune from the fact that any popular venue can be a potential target for active shooters and terrorists. Threats today don’t discriminate based on popularity, wealth, appearance, or talent. For venues, physical security concerns are universal, regardless of whether celebrities or the general public will be in attendance.

Modern security systems should protect all people regardless of the type of venue or event. Evolv’s customers include entertainment venues, airports, stadiums, corporations, hospitals, large scale events, and landmarks worldwide. For example, the Kravis Center, a performing arts venue in West Palm Beach, uses the Evolv Edge to ensure its audiences, artists, and staff members remain safe, while providing patrons with the best customer experience possible.

Security fit for the red carpet

Traditional security systems often detract from the aesthetic of the environments in which they’re used.The use of metal detectors, for example, requires guests to line up single file, dump out the contents of pockets and bags, and walk through the dated technology, only to be patted down later by a security guard. While it may be amusing to consider someone like Lady Gaga being patted down by security guards on the red carpet and forced to empty personal items from her clutch, this scenario accurately depicts the problem with using outdated security systems for red carpet events.

Fortunately, Evolv solutions use the latest AI and machine learning technology to enable frictionless, seamless, and effective security that can be modified to blend into all types of environments, including the red carpet. 

Be on the lookout

Many celebrities are faced with people who have the ability to do them harm, such as known stalkers, over-exuberant fans, or pesky paparazzi. The manual screening methods that traditionally have been used to identify such people require guards to memorize tens, if not hundreds of faces prior to the event, and have proven to be inconsistent and ineffective.

Facial recognition technology has significantly improved the ability of security teams to identify unwanted persons at large-scale events such as award shows. Because facial recognition technology, like Evolv’s Pinpoint, enables an event or venue to input images of people to “be on the lookout for,” guards are able to identify potentially dangerous guests almost immediately.

While this technology is ideal for diffusing threats before they occur, it provides other potential benefits too. Evolv Pinpoint’s ability to input images of people can be utilized for expected guests as well, enabling red carpet staffers to appropriately greet their A-list guests upon arrival. Facial recognition tech can ensure everyone feels like an award winner.   

Everyone, whether a celebrity at the Golden Globes or a family attending a major league baseball game, has the right to be safe. By deploying the most advanced screening capabilities, public venues can address a variety of threats, scenarios, and potential targets, so that no matter the event, guests and the overall guest experience are protected.

The Kravis Center: Protecting Our Guests, the Experience, and Customer Service

Kravis Center

By Judy Mitchell, CEO, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts

Ask any senior executive in charge of a public venue what keeps them up at night and one of their top answers is likely to be “security.” The sad reality of our modern society is that popular venues of all kinds – concert halls, stadiums, schools, places of worship – have emerged as potential targets for terrorists and active shooters.

At the Kravis Center, like every performing arts venue, we’re focused on proactively addressing these security threats to ensure our audiences, artists and staff members remain safe. At the same time, we’re committed to providing the best customer experience possible to our patrons.

Security and the customer experience can sometimes be at odds. Making everyone line up single file and go through a metal detector, empty their pockets and take off their belts isn’t exactly good customer service, but many venues have been conditioned to think this is the only approach.

This is why we’re working to transform how we scan and identify deadly threats while ensuring that our patrons are provided a fast and secure entry.

We have a new approach to screening for weapons and explosives that provides significantly better detection rates than metal detectors while allowing for mass scanning of crowds – speeding up the security process.

Here are a few reasons why we implemented the Evolv Edge and what it means for our customers:

Non-Intrusive Screening

Unlike traditional screening solutions, the Evolv Edge allows our guests, artists and staff members to enter and exit the venue without the need to stop, pose, or empty their pockets.

Optimized Traffic Flow

By eliminating the need to stop each individual guest as they enter, the Evolv Edge enables us to provide a quicker and seamless guest experience, preventing bottlenecks and long lines from occurring.

Advanced Detection Abilities

Today’s threats are no longer limited to firearms and we wanted to make sure our security measures weren’t either. With the Evolv Edge we detect explosives and other weapons concealed on an individual, including fully non-metallic explosives. It even offers multiple sensitivity settings to respond to different threat scenarios should our risk-based security policies change.

Lifetime Evolution

Because threats, technology and security are constantly changing, we wanted to identify a partner that would help us keep pace with those changes and ensure we evolve with the industry. Evolv’s industry pedigree, paired with its multi-disciplinary team of experts are keeping us on the front-lines of performing arts security today and in the future.

While all of these advanced capabilities have significantly improved our security measures, we strongly believe that good communication and training for our security team members, staff and ticket holders are key pieces of our security puzzle. By pairing the Evolv Edge with our high-quality customer service, we can be confident in our ability to provide high-quality security and guest experiences.

After working with Evolv and the Evolv Edge for over a year now, we’ve been nothing but thrilled with the results. We even have patrons regularly approach our staff to express their appreciation for the increased security measures. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Evolv to bring our guests, staff and artists safe and enjoyable experiences.

Judy Mitchell is CEO of The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, a professional performing arts center in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida. Read more about the “Five Steps to Implementing a Balanced Security Plan at Performing Arts Venues” by Anil Chitkara, president of Evolv Technology. 

Photo Credit: Nick Juhasz.

Three Trends Impacting Entertainment Security

Boston Garden

By Neil Sandhoff, Vice President of North America at Evolv Technology  –

In past blog posts, we’ve discussed the need for weapons screening and how to improve security at performing arts venues. In taking a look at the broader entertainment industry as a whole, the conversation around security looks different.

At large concert venues and sports arenas, we often find that security is already a defined and established practice. These venues typically have a dedicated security team, led by a veteran security chief and supported by a series of technologies and procedures. In contrast, we find that many performing arts venues – primarily those that are not located in big cities – are usually at the beginning of their security journey.

While security and the practice of people screening is not new to the entertainment industry, there have been significant developments in the past five years that have impacted how security directors approach securing these venues. As patron experience, speed and increased detection continue to remain paramount in screening, security directors at these venues are starting to ask themselves what they can be doing better.

With that, let’s explore three ways entertainment security has changed and how these venues are looking beyond traditional security processes and procedures to improve security screening and create a more welcoming visitor experience.

Access to Artists Draws Attention to Stalkers

Weeks after wrapping her worldwide Reputation tour, it was revealed that Taylor Swift’s team was using facial recognition technology to scan for potential stalkers at her shows. Unbeknownst to her concert goers who stopped at kiosks to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of her rehearsals, the system was secretly recording their faces and immediately sending the data to a “command post” in Nashville that attempted to match hundreds of images to a database of her known stalkers. While Swift has started to receive some backlash over the use of the technology, it represents a growing trend in entertainment security: the need to control stalkers.

To-date, the majority of entertainment venues have taken the same standard approach to security – screening the entire general fan population via a manual bag search and metal detectors. However, as celebrities, athletes and artists provide more access to their fans – think paying $200 extra for a meet-and-greet ahead of the show – security directors are beginning to look beyond traditional screening methods to prevent known assailants from getting close to talent. While Swift’s team is one of the first to come out and acknowledge the use of facial recognition technology to spot and identify stalkers, they are not the first and will certainly not be the last. In the coming years, I expect we will see facial recognition technology leveraged more frequently to identify stalkers. In addition, the use of advanced sensors such as millimeter wave technology will be used to identify any concealed weapons, particularly non-metallic ones, that fans might be attempting to bring in.

Monetizing the Security Experience

Two headlines from earlier this year that really caught my eye when thinking about entertainment security, at sports venues in particular: “Nobody’s Going to Sports in Person Anymore. And No One Seems to Care,” and “College football attendance sees second-largest decline in history.” As ticket prices rise, and as temperatures continue to drop in some regions, a noticeable trend in sports and entertainment is that people simply aren’t going to as many games as they used to. Instead, they are choosing to watch the games from the comfort of their own homes from one of their many devices, often via streaming services.

Because of this shift, heads of these facilities are beginning to explore how they can create more value for the fan experience. Think about what Disney was able to achieve with the introduction of the FASTPASS – pay extra on top of a standard ticket price to spend less time waiting in lines for popular attractions. What if this same concept could be applied to security at concerts and sports games? An improved security experience, whether it be less invasive or a faster process, is one way venues are working to get fans back into seats – and they’re looking at how technology can help them do this.

Protecting Against Insider Threats

Unlike employees who work at airports or office buildings, many of the employees who work at entertainment venues are subcontractors who only work during games or when events are happening. There is a level of employee screening that is happening; however, it varies from venue to venue. For example, if a venue is home to a national sports league team – such as the Boston Bruins – the venue itself needs to meet the NHL standards for security. Employee screening is a component of meeting this standard. Because these venues already have standards in place for games, they tend to follow these standards for all events. However, venues that are not the “home” for a national team do not have a standard set of security practices in place for screening employees that they follow all the time.

The recent shifts in the entertainment landscape means that everyone from C-level executives to security directors at entertainment venues are tackling new security challenges every day. Whether they are hosting the AFC East Championship Game or night two of an artist’s summer tour – fan experience, detection capabilities and the overall speed of security will continue to dictate security processes throughout the entertainment industry. As the industry itself has shifted, we will start to see more of these facilities leveraging new, innovative technologies such biometrics and facial recognition technologies to combat today’s threats.

To learn more about what is ahead for physical security in 2019, check out our recent blog post.

Photo Credit: Jeff Egnaczyk

Security content kit for stadiums and arenas

Five Steps to Implementing a Balanced Security Plan at Performing Arts Venues

Featured Ballet Image

By Anil Chitkara, Co-Founder and President –

In a previous blog post, we explored how the changing threat landscape has impacted security at performing arts venues. With attackers expanding their targets beyond iconic venues in the largest cities, it’s imperative that venues around the world and in small towns create a more concrete strategy and plan to improve their security approach.

However, performing arts venues pose a unique set of security challenges. Open design concepts, an influx of guests ten minutes before showtime, and varying capabilities of guards are challenges that a plan must consider when tailoring security for visitors that also meets a venue’s specific needs.

At smaller venues and venues without a dedicated security lead, the responsibility of developing and implementing a security plan often falls to individuals who are responsible for other areas such as facilities or guest services. To help get started, here are five steps smaller venues can take towards developing their own formalized security plans.

Step 1 – Find a Trusted Advisor

For venues that don’t have dedicated security professionals, the first step is to identify a trusted advisor who can serve as a resource and help demystify the process. We often find that venue managers think the first step is to hire a standalone security manager, when in fact an advisor can initially provide a similar level of insight and guidance.

This advisor can be anyone from the local chief of police to an FBI liaison or even a security director at another performing arts venue. What’s most important is that venue managers identify someone they trust who can help them start to answer questions like, “what am I missing?” and “what are my peers focusing on?”.

Step 2 – Assess Your Current Plan

Before diving into developing a formal security plan, venue managers should take the time to evaluate any security measures in place to get a sense for what is and is not working. During this step, it is important to incorporate feedback from other “groups” within the venue. For example, in addition to taking guest feedback into consideration, venue managers should talk to members of the operations team and the front of house manager to get a holistic understanding of past successes and challenges.

Step 3 – Identify the One Thing You Can Do Tomorrow

With guidance from their trusted advisor, as a next step, venue managers should think about where they can get started and what immediate changes they can implement that will improve their security process. Keep in mind, this doesn’t need to be a sweeping, drastic change. Look to identify one action that will make an immediate impact. For example, provide active shooter training to guards or have staff watch a 30-minute training video. What this tactic means and looks like can vary based on the venue and the procedures that are already in place.

Step 4 – Make a List of Additional Security Measures to Implement

Depending on the venue, there are a number of practical security procedures and processes that managers can look to start implementing after their initial phase is complete. Two valuable resources are security managers at other performing arts venues in other areas, and security managers at other commercial venues (such as arenas or tourist attractions) in the same city.  These people can help identify key issues and security measures they are taking. For example, these might include hiring guards for the next high-profile event or starting to research various CCTV vendors to identify the best fit.

To help, there are a number of resources that venue managers can reference. For example, the International Association of Venue Managers has a Safety & Security Subcommittee, which is a valuable resource for venue managers; while the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security frequently releases information that is helpful and relevant for venue managers.

Step 5 – Develop a Plan to Put Procedures in Place 

After identifying which practical steps to execute, venue managers should look to develop a comprehensive implementation plan. This plan may span weeks or months, and should take budget cycles and required approvals into account. Managers should consider which steps will have the highest impact to the venue’s overall security posture and consider implementing those measures first. Other steps can be phased in over time. This is an opportunity to tap your trusted advisor for guidance.

As venue managers turn their attention to addressing physical security challenges head on, they will likely be met with questions and concerns related to guest experience and logistics. To help mitigate these concerns, venue managers should focus on delivering a balanced approach that considers both security and the visitor experience so that guests continue to visit the venue and are provided with the safety they come to expect.

It can be overwhelming to think about implementing a formalized security plan. By following the five steps outlined above, venue managers can help ensure an enhanced security process that also provides a simple, unobtrusive experience to visitors.

Read this case study to learn how one performing arts venue improved its security posture by screening for both explosives and firearms while improving the visitor’s screening experience.

Security content kit for performing arts centers

Evaluating the Need for Weapons Screening at Performing Arts Venues

Opera House Featured Image

By Neil Sandhoff, Vice President of North America –

Determining the need for a weapons policy and a threat detection solution at performing arts centers involves more than the security director to make purchasing and implementation decisions. From budget, policy and patron experience, the leadership team must work together to organize, evaluate, plan and implement and communicate such an important initiative.

This is entirely understandable. It’s one thing to work with a director of security and their technical staff, who are measured on their ability to keep employees, customers and other visitors safe. But involving the front-of-the-house team and human resources, who are responsible for creating the best customer and employee experience possible, is an even higher bar. A bad experience–say, delays or pat-down searches–can have a direct downward impact on sales. So if the front-of-the-house thinks a weapons screening technology is a bad idea, it probably won’t be seriously considered.

At least that’s how it has been. I’ve been focused on providing security solutions for over 15 years, but am now seeing the first meaningful shift in the relationship between security and the patron experience teams. Given the rise of senseless lone-shooter attacks in the U.S., many venues are coming to believe – or are at least are willing to entertain the possibility – that patrons will tolerate reasonable inconveniences for added security as long as it doesn’t degrade the overall experience too much. In fact, some of our customers believe their patrons want to make that trade-off. They want to know the people in charge of the facility they’re visiting understand the nagging “could it happen here” feeling they have on a night out.

This is especially true with performing arts venues, given the horrific attacks like those that took place in Manchester, England and Las Vegas, Nevada. In fact, executives at some of these venues are increasingly stretching their purview beyond the front door and into the street where people wait in line for popular events. Due to the increase in terror attacks using rented trucks and other vehicles, such as in Nice, France and Barcelona, Spain, venues are looking for ways to get people off the street as quickly as possible and into the safety of their facility.

The fact that patrons must already stop to hand over or scan a ticket creates a natural opportunity to do screening in a way that won’t cause delays. We did a time study at a Broadway theater earlier this year and found that the ticket-taking process typically takes around five to 10 seconds per person in a live environment. If we can help the venue screen the patron in that time or less, everybody wins.

Unlike many pro sports stadiums, which have had checkpoints and metal detectors for decades, many of these smaller, arts-related venues are adding physical security for the first time. Many don’t even have security chiefs. And yet performing arts is one of our fastest-growing segments.  If you work for a performing arts venue or any other type of company that is looking to create a security strategy as quickly and efficiently as possible, here are a few best practices:

Get out of the security silo, fast: In the old days, the trick to implementing physical security was to work with the head of security and let him or her try to overcome the natural resistance from other factors in their environment. But we’ve found it works best when representatives from the front-of-the-house, finance, facilities and human resources, were involved in the sales process, ideally from the initial conversation.  The security director provided a clear understanding to all the leadership team the consequences of an active shooter and suicide bomber in the facility and the solutions available to deter or prevent such a terrible event.

The more buy-in, the better: As security becomes a higher priority for a company, it makes sense to expand the number of seats at the table when considering new security solutions.  The most celebrated accomplishments in implementing security screening at Performing Arts Centers I have witnessed involved the inclusion of the entire leadership team from the beginning.   The CEO needs to bring their teams together and keep engaged throughout the process, clearly identifying their end-state goals and understanding of the tradeoffs.    In one very successful scenario we witnessed, the chief executive officer directly led the process which involved security, human resources, front-of-house, facilities and finance to drive towards the optimal solution.

Security content kit for performing arts centers

The Show Must Go On: Three Ways Performing Arts Venues Can Improve Security Processes

Orchestra Rehearsing

By Anil Chitkara, Co-Founder and President, Evolv Technology –

Why did this happen? Why now?

Twenty years ago, we asked ourselves these questions after hearing news of senseless terrorist attacks at iconic locations in major world cities.

Today, we’re still asking questions, but now we’re concerned about where the next attack might happen. Shootings and bombings are no longer limited to iconic venues in iconic cities. They can happen anywhere – at an indoor concert in Manchester, England, an outdoor show in Las Vegas, Nevada, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Terrorism has proliferated into many different towns and cities, perpetuated by individuals inspired in their basements and armed with weapons from stores in their neighborhood.

The security professionals responsible for protecting different types of venues including entertainment and performing arts centers also ask these questions. While most use methods such as deployed guards and closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras as the cornerstones of their security strategy, there are limitations to these methods. In the U.S., for example, security guards earn an average annual wage of just over $30,000 and the annual turnover at guard companies is between 100% to 300%. On average, a security guard will remain in the same job for only three to 12 months! Technology can help mitigate these inconsistencies and is critical to enabling the more effective protection of these venues.

People going to see a movie, show, or concert are out to have an enjoyable experience. They have countless ways to spend their time and money, and organizations work hard to provide the best “entertainment” for their paying guests. They do not want to encumber their guests with long lines, slow security or burdensome processes. With improved technology, today it is possible for entertainment venues to offer a simple, unobtrusive experience to visitors entering while providing an enhanced level of security.

Performing arts venues pose a unique set of security challenges. Theaters, for example, tend to be high profile venues that play a prominent role in their cities. Live theater performances start promptly at a designated time, often with guests arriving from dinner or work just before showtime. Performers and patrons don’t want to be distracted by people filing in after the show commences, so doors are closed when the curtain goes up. As a result, security teams are under tremendous pressure to get people screened and seated quickly. Just before showtime is when the security process gets most chaotic.

Many performing arts venues are open and inviting by design. They were designed to encourage the public to come in and enjoy the art and architecture. This open environment runs directly counter to a secure building perimeter with checkpoints.

The “who” and the “what” are also unique elements for these organizations. The genre or artist can often dictate the type of crowd one might expect to see in attendance. The audience attending a chamber music recital is likely very different from the audience attending a rock concert. As entertainment venues broaden the types of performances they offer, security should be able to ”ramp up” or “ramp down” accordingly.

Lastly, guards are people and human behavior is inconsistent. Capability from guard to guard is different, and a specific guard’s security vigilance often wanes over the course of an evening. Very likely, the one hundredth person he or she screens is subject to a different level of scrutiny than the first. Experience, training, fatigue, and human error play a role in how thorough and effective a search is conducted.

Venue operators have an opportunity to upgrade their security capabilities to be ready for the changing nature of threats. Below are three ways they can keep their patrons happy and safe:

  • A visible and effective security process can protect today’s event and deter tomorrow’s potential threat. Use security technology to improve upon the existing processes with more consistent and automated detection capability. Take the security approach to the next level by providing your guards with technology to augment their practices.
  • Allow for an approach that can flex up security when the intelligence warrants it and move back to a baseline level when it doesn’t. Offer the ability to consistently screen and to change the level of screening depending on when or where the event is or who the performer is.
  • Balance the security and patron experience to ensure it doesn’t make it too obtrusive for the paying guests. Rather than using clunky metal detectors, use a blend of state-of-the-art technologies – high throughput technologies with sensors and artificial intelligence.

The threat landscape has shifted significantly in recent years. We could all use a night out to forget about the daily headlines. Performing arts organizations can help us enjoy our visits by adopting modern security methods that protect while keeping the user experience intact.    

To learn more about how to balance security and visitor experience, click here.

Security content kit for performing arts centers